18 Mar 2013

Meeting Martin Surl, Police and Crime Commissioner; hate crime, 20 mph and more

Talking crime at Scrutiny
Last Thursday was Strategic Scrutiny meeting at the Council. There were various reports re health updates, a 'lessons learned' report re the canal and more - but this blog is a brief look at Martin Surl's presentation to us and a couple of the questions I raised.

Interestingly what I didn't get a chance to say was that in 2011 Green County Councillor Sarah Lunnon sought in a motion to GCC to stop cuts to Emergency Services; the debate was guillotined - the main opposition to amendment seemed to be that Sarah was being political. Well she was - she was attempting to use the political process to protect our vital services.Martin has gained a 2% increase in the budget now so we hopefully wont see a big impact...

Anyway Martin outlined his approach and I welcomed lots of what he said like an emphasis on prevention of crime and his support for Restorative Justice and its aims to stop people re-offending. He listed 5 priorities; the first being about preventing crime, the second an emphasis on older people, third, young people becoming adults, the fourth about how we design spaces and last 'Safe & social driving'. You can see more here.

With limited time I noted the importance of building communities - stronger inclusive communities mean less crime, but also noted the under-reporting of Hate Crime in County particularly relating to incidents with people with disabilities. This needs to be taken seriously and I am not convinced the issue is understood.

Various other issues got raised during the evening - Martin assured us that he had the Minister's word that costs for policing the badger cull would come out of central government funds and not Gloucestershire. He aslo again stated the Police would be neutral - they were not there to support one side. He also noted he wanted to keep community policing like PCSOs.

The last issue I raised was around support for 20 mph - this is clearly a County Council issue but in the past Police have not been so supportive - it sounded like Martin was neutral on the issue.

I did of course mention that Randwick, Whiteshill and Ruscombe ward could be the first in the County to have a ward-wide 20 mph. As regular blog readers will know since 2006 and indeed earlier many of us have been campaigning - reducing speeds has been repeatedly high on residents list of concerns when I knock on doors. In 2009 over 400 local residents signed a petition requesting lower speeds and both the Parish Plans called for slower speeds/20 mph limits. In a vote in Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish there was 83% in favour. We hope to get final confirmation very soon and the signs to go up this summer.

As I've said before and in my submission a few weeks ago regarding the Traffic Order:

30mph is just too fast for the mix of narrow roads, parked cars and limited or non-existent footpaths, especially for children, dog walkers and cyclists. 20 mph is safer. As you will know if you are driving at 30 mph and someone run's out three car lengths in front of you, you will hit them at 27mph; that is the equivalent to falling from the third floor of a building. At 20 mph you will stop just in time. On average five people lose their lives on roads in England and Wales every day, 63 sustain serious injuries and hundreds of others suffer other injuries.

20 mph is also about reinforcing positive aspects of our villages, reducing noise, discouraging through traffic and it has also been shown to lead to more people feeling safer to walk and cycle.

The idea of 20 limits over a wider area is about getting the message across that it is unacceptable to drive more than 20 mph in a residential area. Lancashire have adopted countywide 20 mph, while Portsmouth's 20 scheme has cut serious injuries and deaths by 22%. See my report to the County in 2010 on why we need 20 mph: http://ruscombegreen.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/20-why-we-need-it.html

As one of those who has long worked for 20 mph locally and over all residential areas, I fully support this move towards a 20 mph. It will not be the whole answer to slowing speeds but is part of the approach to make our communities safer and more pleasant. I hope that this Traffic Order is approved without delay.

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